With the offseason workout program now a thing of the past and the official start to training camp coming up on July 21st (report date and physicals), it's time to look ahead to each positional battle and how they will ultimately shape the New York Giants' final 53-man roster. Today we examine the quarterbacks.
THE BACKUP BATTLE
Although most everything would appear cut and dry for the New York Giants at the quarterback position, that's actually far from reality. Earlier this offseason the team had signed both Rusty Smith and Josh Freeman to sub for an injured Eli Manning (ankle) and provide competition for both Ryan Nassib and Curtis Painter, but they were promptly released. The team also tinkered with the idea of signing Mark Sanchez before he joined the Philadelphia Eagles, and will now ultimately head into training camp with the same three names at the position they had in 2013.
However, unlike 2013, Big Blue will likely look to keep only two quarterbacks, with the hope that Ryan Nassib, now entering his second year in the league, will beat out Curtis Painter for the No. 2 role. Unfortunately, he did little throughout the offseason workout program to separate himself from the veteran back-up despite some praise from quarterbacks coach Danny Langsdorf.
"[He's] really smart. I think he’s done a great job, especially in our no-huddle periods of just being able to get guys lined up, whether we’re in a two-minute situation or whatever situation we’ve been in he’s done a great job of just getting us in a correct formation, getting us lined up," Langsdorf said. "He’s just got to keep working on executing, whether it’s a throw or timing with the receivers, he’s just got to continue to work with those guys but he’s been very good to this point in terms of studying and learning."
Painter, meanwhile, saw a dramatic decrease in his snaps and that will likely continue into training camp and, subsequently, the preseason. So if he's to beat out Nassib for No. 2 spot for the second straight season, possibly even costing Nassib a job this time around, he's going to have to do it with precious few opportunities.
"[Painter] doesn’t get very many reps, that’s the hard part with him. He doesn’t get as many chances out there but fundamentally he’s really improved," Langsdorf said. "I think he’s a very accurate thrower, that’s his strength. He had a little bit of a knee early on so he didn’t get as many reps in the individual periods that we had at the beginning of the offseason program. … He’s done a great job preparing himself and with the limited amount of reps he gets he’s been pretty sharp."
The one thing going for Nassib is the addition of offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, who brings with him some familiarity in a West Coast-style offense — something better suited for Nassib, who ran an offense with some similarities to the current system during his time at Syracuse.
"There's some carryover from college to Coach McAdoo's system," Nassib said. "It's something I've done in the past and kind of got away from last year. Now that we're back in, the lessons I've learned in the past are kind of becoming relevant again. It's been nice to have that background now when I'm trying to learn something new. Getting the ball out quick, having a good running game and playing fast, which is something I think I do pretty well and that I fit pretty well into."
General Manager Jerry Reese has also said on multiple occasions that the team will give Nassib as many opportunities as possible to secure the No. 2 job, but if he struggles in training camp/preseason and both head coach Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo do not feel comfortable with him, the team cannot and will not be able to risk having him as the sole option behind Manning.
REBOUND A MUST FOR ELI MANNING
The discussion about what happened to the Giants and quarterback Eli Manning in 2013 has gone well beyond beating a dead horse. And whether or not you side with those who believe Eli is entirely at fault or those who believe it was a product of other factors (ie. aging, oft-injured offensive line, poor running game, miscommunication with receivers) is irrelevant at this point. The fact is, Manning is, by far, the most important key to the Giants' potential success or failure in 2014.
The big story to start the offseason was Manning's need for ankle surgery following an injury in a Week 17 victory over the Washington Redskins last season. And although it initially seemed serious, Manning recovered quickly and didn't miss a single snap during the offseason workout program, including Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and mandatory mini-camp.
While it may be stating the obvious, that was a tremendous boost for the team as no one expected him to return so quickly. It was especially important as Ben McAdoo wasted no time in implementing his West Coast-style offense and the many changes that came with it.
Coming off of, arguably, the most ineffective season of his career, the major offensive changes may be exactly what the Doctor ordered for Manning & Co.. Under Kevin Gilbride, the offense was extremely complex with receivers having multiple options at the top of their routes, each requiring them and Manning to be on the same page sans verbal communication based on their pre-snap reads.
"There are a lot of different plays and a lot of different things going on, but maybe not as much reading as a receiver," Manning said. "If you know what the play is, then you should be fine. It's just about getting open. You don't have to make as many decisions, probably, as a receiver, but there are still a lot of things to it. We're still fine-tuning a few things."
Under McAdoo however, the offense is going to be more up-tempo with simpler (albeit more) route trees for each receiver. We'll likely see a lot more no-huddle than we have over the last decade, as well as shorter routes and a greater involvement from the screen game — something Manning & Co. struggled mightily with a season ago.
Despite it all, Manning has enjoyed every moment of learning the new system and even said he felt "re-energized." It's something retired Giants quarterback, Phil Simms, expected to hear from Manning, as he, too, underwent a similar change in his career and loved it.
"I learned a new system in my 15th year, and it was awesome," Simms added. "It will be for Eli like it was for me. You have to win the new coach over. He's going to have to do things faster than everybody else [on the team], and he's going to have to prove himself all over again."
Of course, the biggest factor in a rebound for Manning would also be the rebound of their much-maligned, and now entirely rebuilt offensive line. We'll take a look at that in the coming days.
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